A reader writes:
Several of the employees of my office (including myself) have been approached by our department manager, who has asked us to talk with specific employees about their attendance, personal phone calls, hygiene, etc. I feel this is the manager's job to do but he has become down right insistent that we "handle" it for him. How do we tell the manager that he needs to control the employees with the bad attendance, personal phone calls, etc.?
Really? Wow, your manager sucks.
I'd say this to him: "I'm confused. I don't have any authority over Jane, so I really can't be the one to address this with her. You or someone else with authority needs to talk to her."
Given that he's clearly a d-bag, he may respond by claiming that she'll take it better coming from you, or that he doesn't have time, or any other similarly ridiculous excuse to not to do his job. Just pleasantly and firmly repeat, "I don't have the authority to have those kinds of conversations with my coworkers."
And if he tells you that he's giving you that authority, say this: "I'm not sure what you mean. Are you saying you're making me her manager?" (He's not. He's trying to give you the authority for this one situation, because he's an ass who doesn't want to do his job.)
And because I'm in a cranky mood, if this guy keeps this up, feel free to complain to someone -- HR or whoever. Couch it in terms of confusion -- you're confused about why your manager keeps asking you to exercise authority you don't have.
No matter what your job is, it's unacceptable to refuse to do what you've been hired for. But managers who won't manage are the worst, due to the massive and destructive impact that they have on everyone around them. And unfortunately you're working for one of them.